Friday, April 03, 2009

Free at last, Lord, I’m free at last...

by Jennie Bentley

It’s been ten years since I had my last steady job. The kind with set hours and a weekly or biweekly paycheck. That all changed exactly ten years ago today, when my first child was born. (Happy Birthday, Finn!) I worked at the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau at the time, and I was at my desk right up until 5 o’clock on April 2nd, 1999. Two hours later, while I was getting ready to go out to dinner with my husband—April 2nd happens to be our wedding anniversary, as well—my water broke. Instead of going to dinner, we went to the hospital. And that was the end of my life as I knew it. I went from one kind of indentured servitude to another.

This isn’t going to be about the joy of having children, though. Even if I adore my kids—most of the time—and wouldn’t trade them for anything. Except maybe a million dollar advance on my next book.

I didn’t rejoin the work force after I gave birth, but stayed home with the little tyke, and four years later, with his brother as well. I’m still there. At home. Both kids are in elementary school now, and somewhere along the way, I got my real estate license. I bought and sold—and renovated—a few houses over the next few years, and then, of course, came the book contract. Three books in a series of home renovation mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Book 1, Fatal Fixer-Upper, came out last November. Book 2, Spackled and Spooked, will hit stores in August. And book 3, as yet untitled, is scheduled for release in just over a year, May 2010. I sent the manuscript to my editor last week. She’ll have revisions, and there’ll be copy edits and line edits and all sorts of things to deal with, but as of right now, I’m free as a bird.

No job.

No contract.

No demands.

No requirements to produce this, that, or the other.

I can write whatever I damn well please, with no concerns about whether my editor will approve of it or not. Because I don’t have an editor anymore.


It’s a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s scary. Will they offer another contract? Did the first book do well enough that they’ll want to take a chance on more? (I think so, but after the bad news from the publishing industry lately, who knows?) Will they wait to see how book 2 does before they decide? Will I have to wait six months for them to come through? Or will I go back to being a contract-less writer? Free as a bird, but with no commitment as to work or income?

On the other hand, the sky’s the limit. I can write what I want. Any kind of book in any genre. Hell, I don’t have to write anything at all if I don’t want to!

It’s a beautiful, scary, wonderful, worrisome kind of feeling. And a whole lot of fun, as I try to decide what I want to work on next. There’s a whole world out there full of stories begging to be told. And a whole head-full back here, of characters clamoring for their chance to be heard.

So what about you? If you were going to scrap what you’re working on right now and start something new, what would you write about? More of the same, or something different? A new story with a new character, or one with someone you already know and like? Same genre or different? Any brilliant story ideas bouncing around in your brain that you’d like to share?

I’ll be back here on Monday, by the way. Wilfred the Author has jetted off to beautiful Hawaii with his lovely wife, and he has asked me to fill in.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha! (cue evil laughter)

He already wrote A Reason for Dying—after Monday, he’ll have A Reason for Dying... of embarrassment!

That’s all I can say for now, but you’ll want to be here on Monday, I promise. You’ll kick yourself if you miss the denouement. See you then!


Pat Remick said...

Congrats Jennie on submitting No. 3 and thanks for sharing how it feels. I've been so focused on the idea of finishing so I can try to get a contract that I'd never quite thought about what comes after -- like you are. I do hope your new freedom inspires all sorts of creative and fun thinking! (And that you're also ready for the next 3-book contract in your series!)

Annette said...

Hey, Jennie, great tease for Monday. I can't wait.

Freedom and terror do seem to go together. I hope you get good news from your current publisher. Income is a good thing.

Jennie Bentley said...

Income in a beautiful thing, Annette. You're free as a bird too, aren't you?

And Pat, thanks for the well-wishes. Too much freedom is a scary thing; the possibilities are so endless I'm at a loss. ;-)

Joyce said...

Sometimes I like the fact that I can write anything I want, but other times I'd like to have a steady series with familiar characters.

My first manuscript was agented, so I worked like crazy to get the second in the series done, then after submitting the first one to only 5 editors, she dropped me. I'm working on a new book now, completely different from the other ones. And I have an idea for yet another series, and I want to write something set in WWII.

It would be nice to get paid for writing fiction, though. I did earn a little recently for a non-fiction article and for editing a book proposal. That was nice.

I can't wait to see what you have in store for Will on Monday!

Dana King said...

Congrats and good luck. I try to think of any unexpected circumstance where I don't know what to do as an opportunity. Sometimes I even succeed. You've written enough, and been around the industry enough, so you must have some gut impression of what feels right to donext. Go with it. Among the good things about writing is you can change your mind, put what you've written in a drawer (today, a hard drive) and go on to something else with no harm done. No decision you make will be "bad," so let that take some of the pressure off.

Jennie Bentley said...

Thanks, guys!

Monday's gonna rock. Seriously.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Uh Oh!!!